Staff at Randall Children's Hospital working to improve care for - KPTV - FOX 12

Staff at Randall Children's Hospital working to improve care for foster kids

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After years of seeing the lack of health care for foster kids in the State of Oregon, staff at Randall Children's Hospital are working to change that by creating what they call "a medical home" for kids and their families.

The Randall Children's Pediatric Care - Emanuel Clinic is the only clinic in the Portland metro area with this model of care for foster children according to staff. It's currently supporting some 200 kids with major medical needs.  

The staff believes those kids may have fallen through the cracks if not for this program.

Jolie Massey tells FOX 12 that she has seen it all in her years of being a foster parent.

"I had a 4-month-old once who cried and screamed for the first two days, and I was just told it was a breastfeeding baby," Massey recalled. "Really the baby had a raging ear infection."

Massey is a mother of eight, and four of those kids are foster children she's currently supporting. Each child comes to her home in Northeast Portland with their own very specialized medical needs.

"I generally don't know who their doctor was, or the last time they were seen by a doctor, if they had their shots and they're up to date, or what they're exposed to," she said. "Lots of time they come in having scabies or head lice. Often times, their most recent care, is whatever brought them into foster care in the first place."

It's a major problem doctors like Randall Children's Pediatric Care pediatrician Carol Endo say they used to run into all of the time with foster families.

"This poor family came in once with a garbage bag full of meds and said the bottles are empty and we need a refill and what is it for," Endo said. "The child was too young to know what they had this medicine for, the family didn't know what the diagnosis was and here I am not knowing what to do, how do I know?"

Endo said that all changed after Randall Children's Pediatric Care - Emanuel Clinic began their Medical Home Program in 2009. One of the things the staff does is figure out all of that medical history for families like Massey's.

"I love it, I can't imagine what it would be like needing to start at ground zero again all of the time," Massey said.

The staff says it's not an across the board standard in Oregon's foster care system to have that medical information readily available to travel with a foster child from home to home. Sometimes, they say, that information doesn't exist at all.

Holly Hermes is the care coordinator at the clinic who works to track that all down for families they treat, a task she likens to being a detective.

"I work really hard to gather as much health history for a child as I can," said Randall Children's Hospital Care Coordinator Holly Hermes. "It's a lot of work, sometimes detective work, both in-state and out of state, so that we have that information going forward."

The clinic is now pioneering the transition to what they call patient-centered medical homes, where each foster child is surrounded by a team of doctors and counselors focused on their specific needs.

That team is all under one roof and stays with a child for as long as they need.  

"Currently, we are the only clinic that is providing this service and we have children from all over the city, Multnomah County and other counties," Hermes explained.

Staff members say when you look at the number of ER visits for children since the start of the program, they can tell they're making a positive impact on their health.

They say foster kids who did not go through their care coordination went to the ER some 251 times, while foster kids who did receive their care only went 112 times.

"It would be nice to move this model of care out to the community so that it becomes a community standard, it really should be," Endo said.

Working with the Health Share of Oregon, they hope to do just that. But, they say the program's current funding could run dry by September.

They're now doing all that they can to find another option to continue the program.

Massey hopes that happen and soon. She considers the clinic a major blessing.

"If I can do less tracking of medical stuff, then I can concentrate more on being here and raising the kids," Massey said.

Clinic officials say that both Health Share of Oregon and Care Oregon, which currently fund the program, have let them know verbally they hope to find a funding option for them to continue the program, though nothing is concrete.

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